You are here: Home Články / Articles 1999 Will Social democrats split?

Will Social democrats split?

The ruling Social Democratic Party (CSSD) is experiencing internal tension ahead of its congress, which is to be held in April. Some analysts even suggest that the party could split, unless two competing wing of the party find a common ground.

One wing of the party is led by Milos Zeman, the current party chairman. The other wing is associated mainly with Stanislav Gross, leader of the CSSD parliamentary caucus. In an apparent attempt to strengthen his position before the congress, Zeman recently reconfirmed his intention to leave politics in two years. He nominated Vladimir Spidla, a party vice-chairman and the minister of labor and social affairs, as his successor.

Spidla is known as a speaker for leftist forces within the CSSD. He is, however, a politician with little or no charisma, whose chances to successfully lead the biggest Czech party are not good. It is likely that Zeman, who is an experienced politician, realizes this fact. The nomination of Spidla, therefore, appears to be a tactical move designed to bring Spidla's followers into Zeman's camp, rather than a serious intention.

Moderate politicians within the CSSD have been looking with a degree of suspicion at Zeman's efforts to cooperate with the Communists. They have also criticized the fact that Zeman's chief political adviser, Miroslav Slouf, is a former communist official, who has been involved in dubious financial dealings.

The tactics of both wings appear to be the same: those representatives of the opposing wing who have allegedly been involved in dubious business practices have come under fire. Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda, who is a follower of Stanislav Gross, was recently accused of having engaged in dubious business practices before he took over his current post. Svoboda's close associate, Barbara Snopkova, is now even officially prosecuted. As a result she has had to leave her post of Svoboda's deputy. Svoboda has described criminal charges against Snopkova as "politically motivated."

Svoboda is also in the middle of a scandal triggered by charges that the CSSD two years ago obtained a 3 million crown loan from a Czech company but failed to report it. Svoboda allegedly negotiated the loan. An officer of the company was shot several days ago after he at first confirmed the reports about the loan and later denied them. Opposition politicians have linked his shooting with the CSSD, while the CSDD denies any connection. However, the incident intensified tension with the CSSD.

Slouf has, too, come under increasing pressure. Czech TV recently broadcast a documentary that suggested that Slouf was involved in a house building scheme that collapsed about two years ago. He is also reported to have been involved in other dubious finical and business deals. Journalists claim to have obtained information about Slouf's activities from sources outside the CSSD, but the timing of the intensifying camping against Slouf is hardly a coincidence.

Another conflict that is brewing within the CSSD reportedly concerns programmatic theses that the CSSD congress should approve. Zeman is reported to have tasked a group of associates, to draft the document. Some other prominent members of the CSSD decided to draft an alternative document in protest against Zeman's practices. The CSSD congress could thus witness a clash between two competing visions of the CSSD's future.

CSSD vice chairman Petra Buzkova recently harshly criticized the so-called opposition agreement that the CSSD and the Civic Democratic Party of Vaclav Klaus had signed last year. She and some other associates of Gross are likely to assault the agreement at the congress. Most members of the Zeman cabinet will oppose any attack on the opposition treaty, as the survival of the current government directly depends on the agreement.

Despite all of these conflicts, the CSSD is not likely to split. The party is known for internal infighting ahead of most important party meeting. Any splinter group would find it difficult to establish itself as a new political party. In fact, dividing the party before the congress may be Zeman's tactic because it may strengthen his chances for reelection. Zeman's opponents, on the other, may also not want to split the party. Rather, they are trying to win enough influence before the congress, so that they bolster their chances to get elected to important party posts.

Reuters - 9. 3. 1999